Yamagata Prefecture’s “Yamadera” – Amazing Snowy Scenery!
You can reach Yamadera Station from Tokyo Station by taking the Yamagata Shinkansen for 2 hours and 30 minutes, then changing to the Senzan line at Yamagata Station and riding for about 20 minutes.
My destination this time is “Yamadera,” which is visible from the station’s platform. It’s so high up…. I’m a little worried about making it up all the stairs to get there, but I’m trying to psych myself up!
Yamadera Station’s building had a lot of charm and character. This is the point where, if you have a lot of luggage with you, I recommend you deposit it into a coin locker.
After leaving the station, follow the illustrations of Buddhist monks showing the path to Yamadera, and cross Houshu Bridge over the Tachiya River.
After crossing the bridge, if you turn right you will find a street lined with shops selling things like souvenirs. I found a sign advertising cherry soft serve there. It’s cold, but we are talking about soft serve flavored with Yamagata’s specialty cherries, so it’s sure to encourage me on my climb up the mountain!
Finally, I’ve reached the entrance to Yamadera. I’m suddenly faced with stairs…. From here I have around 1000 stairs to climb.
A short 1-minute climb up and I’ve reached Risshaku-ji’s main temple hall. Incidentally, this temple is commonly known as Yamadera, but its real name is Risshaku-ji. I stop and pray for safety in the future (if I can climb the mountain safely) at the wooden statue of Yakushinyorai (the Buddha of healing and medicine).
Here there stands a bronze statue of the 17th century haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who is so well-known that it is said that every single Japanese person knows of him. Yamadera is a location that is connected with Matsuo Basho.
I’ve arrived at the gates of Yamadera around 4 minutes after I started out. Here I need to pay a 200-yen admission fee, then I can really can begin the true climb!
I climb up the path between towering trees. My usual lack of exercise seems to have caught up to me, and I’m breathing a bit harder….
10 minutes after I left the temple gate, I arrive at “Semizuka.” I’ve run out of steam here, about halfway up the path to the temple. A haiku by Matsuo Basho that he wrote at Yamadera, “shizukasa ya, iwa ni shimiiru, semi no koe” (“How still it is here, Stinging into the stones, The locusts’ trill”), is engraved into a rock here. Just about every Japanese person knows this haiku.
Another 3 minutes later and I reach “Nioumon.” The end is finally in sight. Nioumon is an elegant gate that was rebuilt in 1848. After coming this far, I’m drenched in sweat even though it’s winter. I recommend that people visiting wear easy-to-remove layers of clothing.
I have climbed up so high! It’s such a beautiful view.
Finally, I’ve reached the highlight of Yamadera, Godaido!!
An amazing panoramic view extends out before my eyes!
This is the view I wanted to see so badly! I ended up just taking it all in for a while. Even though I’m no Matsuo Basho, this view made me want to try writing some poetry.
I can even see a small Yamadera Station, where I got off the train not long ago, down below.
It may seem like a nice idea to visit Yamadera in the summer, when Matsuo Basho’s haiku was written, but visiting in the winter is nice and quiet, so I recommend it! You probably would get even sweatier in the summer.
Please try visiting Yamadera in the winter!!
Basic information on Yamadera
- Yamadera Tourism Association（Japanese）